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How to Get Your Way at Work

Patrick Erwin, writer

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Are you getting your way at work? Every day, you've got to interact with your boss and co-workers in the workplace. You have to navigate those relationships while you balance responsibilities and tasks -- and deal with workplace politics.

If you feel like you're constantly getting the short end of the stick when it comes to what you want, here are some ideas to overcome some common roadblocks.

The power of no

For some workers, the biggest challenge is saying no to their boss or co-workers. After all, we all want to be team players. No one wants to be thought of as unhelpful or unpleasant, so we say yes out of obligation.

We may want to avoid confrontation and emotional upheaval at work, but experts suggest the way to say no is to keep your emotions in check. "Be direct. Be firm. Say no and argue your point gracefully," advises Leila Bulling Towne, an executive coach based in the San Francisco area. "It's business, not personal, and adding emotions to the picture will make it harder for you, your point of view and your position with the company to be taken seriously."

"Simply say no -- and you don't owe an explanation," asserts Marjorie Brody, the CEO and founder of Philadelphia-based Brody Professional Development. If saying no to your boss instills an extra level of anxiety, Brody suggests a direct approach. "Simply tell him or her, 'This is what's on my plate currently. What would you like me to remove from what I'm currently working on?'"

Winning an argument

Everybody wants to feel that they're making important contributions at work. And few things can be more discouraging than having your opinions or preferences consistently passed over for someone else's ideas.

One key to winning a debate or argument at work: Do less talking and more listening. "Really listen to what the person is saying. That's difficult when you just want to jump in there and defend yourself," says Vicky Oliver, a New York City-based career expert and author of several books, including "Bad Bosses, Crazy Co-workers and Other Office Idiots." 

Oliver stresses that you should always acknowledge the validity of the other side's argument.  "Always thank the person for expressing her viewpoint. Innocuous phrases such as 'I hear you,' and 'That's an interesting point,' go a long way towards making someone feel that you are both on the same side."  

Convincing your co-workers

Even when you're not in a heated debate with a boss or co-workers, you can face resistance at work from people who are reluctant to take a new path, try a new approach or use different tools to get work done.

If you're leading a project, you must present your point of view in a convincing way without being intimidating. Oliver thinks that keeping the focus on the overall benefits can be a decisive factor in winning support for your ideas. "Express the ways in which your way will make the whole team look good."

Be grateful

"Show your gratitude. People are much more willing to do what you want when you've appreciated what they've already done," suggests Lynne Waymon, CEO of Contacts Count, a nationwide training and consulting firm.

Waymon, the author of "Make Your Contacts Count," suggests setting a time to show your gratitude -- and at the same time build a network of people who will support your endeavors in the future.

"Ask yourself: Who sent a resource my way? Who made an extra effort to help me?  Who went out of their way to let me know about an opportunity?  Then find a good way to thank those people -- a funny card, a quick e-mail, a handwritten note, tickets or an invititation to an event."

A checklist for winning your way at work

Here are some final ideas on how to get your way at work:

·         Be realistic. Don't have unrealistic demands. Know your company, its management and the resources it has available to draw from when you are contemplating an idea.

·         Have a plan. Whether it's a proposal for a new software program, or a pitch to take extra time off or work from home, have a detailed plan to share with your boss. Let him or her know what the impact will be on the team, and get a cost estimate for any purchases. Outline the benefits to you, the team and the company.

·         Ask for feedback. If you're working on a project that impacts everyone in your group, be sure to solicit feedback from your co-workers, and take a look at their comments with an objective eye. Your colleagues will be far likelier to support an initiative in which they've made an investment.

Patrick Erwin is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 15/09/2008 - 11:59 PM

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